The first large group of Japanese settlers moved to Colombia in 1929 to work as farmers. They comprised people from the northern Japanese province of Fukuoka, whose migration was sponsored by the Compañía de Fomento de Ultramar. After this first wave of migration, two more groups of Japanese families arrived in the Pacific coasts of Colombia: one in 1930 and another in 1935. They settled a region in the southwest of Colombia in the province of Cauca, cleaning the land and building a small village to grow beans, soy and rice in a plantation called El Jagual. When World War II began, they were discriminated and harassed by the Colombian government. Many of them were put into concentration camps near the capital of Colombia. Finally they had to abandon El Jagual and restart small plantations around the provinces of Cauca and Valle del Cauca. By the end of the 1950s, the community had accumulated an approximate of 50.000 hectares of cultivated land. After the war ended, Japanese refugees were warmly invited by the original colony to join the community. Marriages and job contracts were arranged with people in Japan wanting to escape from the post-war crisis. After the decade of 1980's, fewer Japanese have joined the traditional community of Nikkei. They have moved to urban settings and have devoted to economic activities other than agriculture, still performing an important role of social leadership in the city of Cali. 
The Colombian Nikkei created a cooperative of farmers in El Jagual, which afterwards was called SAJA (Sociedad de Agricultores Japoneses), which changed to Asociación Colombo Japonesa in 1979. In addition to that, the original community had a school for Japanese children called Hikarien. The school has joined the Asociación Colombo Japonesa as a center for cultural promotion of the Japanese culture not only to the Japanese-born. In addition to that, followers of the church Tenrikyo arrived in Colombia to expand their faith.
The Colombian writer Jorge Isaacs published a romantic novel entitled María in 1867, where he descrives the enormity, fertility and beauty of the valley in Cauca and Valle del Cauca. The story takes place in a plantation called The Paradise. Professor Yuko Takeshima translated the novel into Japanese in 1908. The descriptions of the land motivated a small group of Japanese to travel to Colombia, a lower ranked destination for Japanese adventurers. The legend says that the Japanese were, indeed, looking for The Paradise. This legend would be portrayed in the 2007 colombian film El Sueño del Paraíso (The Dream of the Paradise)